Excitement from start to finish as usual in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race with Florian Alt winning Race 1 at the Dutch TT from fellow 16 year old German Philipp Oettl. Portuguese 15 year old Ivo Lopes flashed across the Assen finish line in 3rd just ahead of a pack containing Joe Roberts, Scott Deroue, Karel Hanika etc., the top ten covered by just over 1 second after 16 laps and almost 30 minutes of racing.
Alt was ecstatic, Oettl stone-faced but all should have been well pleased with another thrilling spectacle. The only man who had the right to be really downcast was Lorenzo Baldassarri the 15 year old Italian and 2011 Cup Champion who high-sided out of the lead pack and sustained a dislocated shoulder.
“It was a lot of fun,” exclaimed Alt. “I had a pretty good start and could run at the front with the others. Through the middle of the race I was pushed back a bit but I fought back to the front to race with Philipp and the others. I knew he was fast and he's very good at getting speed out of the bike. Onto the last lap I was leading but I expected him to come past out of the slipstream on the straight. I knew I still had a chance and I was full on the gas very late into the last left hander to pass him and then held the inside into the final chicane.”
Oettl explained that the lead-from-the-front tactic that had held off everyone through the last lap at Silverstone had not worked this time. “For me 2nd is pretty much a disaster, I tried to do the same and just do the perfect last lap but this time it wasn't good enough. I didn't get off the line so well, that was my fault but then the first laps were good and I managed to get with the lead group and from there it was a very close race. I have to say that 20 points for 2nd is important for the championship. I just have to get across the line first next time,” asserted the Cup leader who has a 1 point advantage over Alt going into the 8th race of the 15 for the year on Saturday. He starts again from 11th on the grid.
Lopes always seems to enjoy his racing and was thrilled to be at the front in another great battle. “That was a lot of fun. I had to work hard to get to the front and at one point I think I got pushed back to about 6th or so, so I had to fight forward again, full gas all the way. On the last lap coming down to the chicane I was late on the brakes, got through to 2nd but messed up the corner a bit and Philipp got me on the line.”
American 15 year old Roberts qualified 14th so knew that he had his work cut out coming off the 5th row. “Going into the race I knew I had to be aggressive to be with the lead group.... and I guess it worked. I made a couple of mistakes mid-race through turns 1 and 5 and got off in the astroturf and I think those cost me a place on the podium. Through the last lap I just pushed as hard as I could and I got 4th.”
Injured from a scooter crash on Tuesday and in some pain from his scabbed elbows, knees and hands, 16 year old Dutchman Deroue nevertheless put on a great show in front of his home crowd. The double Estoril winner was in the heart of the lead pack until Baldassarri fell. “When he high-sided I had to go wide to miss him and lost a lot of ground. I was lucky because Brad Ray was with me and he's a fast rider so we could fight back to the group. We just managed to get there for the last lap and so I could get 5th. Not bad because especially on left hand corners or tucking in for the straight I've got a lot of pain.”
Disappointed with 6th was Hanika but the 16 year old Czech had a great race from pole. He did a lot of leading and was always in the picture, his race was almost perfect but not quite. “In the chicane on the last lap I made a mistake, went down only to 3rd instead of 2nd and lost all the drive coming out,” he explained and the pain on his face was clear as the double pole man with 3 podiums already in his first Rookies season still awaits his first win.
Race 2 from Assen can be viewed on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world, it starts at 15.30 CET on Saturday.